The existence of a mandated end date for SEPA migration is frustrating to those of us who do not like to feel that someone else should dictate our priorities. Treasury has plenty of them already, so it is disconcerting that an issue of compliance (bringing
with it cost, resourcing issues and quite possibly a minefield of political issues) has been placed at the top of the list.
SEPA migration brings complexities and challenges, but it remains a major opportunity to redefine banking, payment and collection processes, and standardise bank communication – things that are also on most treasurers’ and finance managers’ lists of priorities.
In reality, few treasurers are likely to be able to justify a second project to optimise these activities in the foreseeable future, so SEPA compliance should be seen as an opportunity for transformation that is not to be missed.
Every part of the business that is in any way involved in a payment or collection process, from legal through to accounting, accounts payable, accounts receivable, sales and marketing and treasury, at both a local and central level. This in itself presents
a unique opportunity to explore ways to work across the business to improve and harmonise processes. But what specific benefits can SEPA migration bring? These are five of the most significant advantages that we have witnessed amongst our customers that we
have supported through the migration process so far:
1. Reduce bank fees
As all Euro payments both within and between EU member states are treated as domestic payments under SEPA, companies with a material volume of credit transfers between Eurozone countries will see a reduction in bank charges. Furthermore, a harmonised payments
and collections landscape requires fewer cash management banks, leading to economies of scale and therefore more opportunity to negotiate.
2. Rationalise bank accounts and simplify account structures
Many companies have built up a large number of Euro accounts, often with multiple accounts per entity and country, with complex (and costly) cash pooling structures to centralise cash. SEPA migration is an opportunity to rationalise the total number of accounts,
which improves control and reduces administration, and also to simplify liquidity management structures that are in place.
3. Centralise payments
SEPA migration should not be seen only a technical project – indeed, technical migration is the area where vendors such as SunGard can help the most. Where we see SEPA projects delivering the greatest value is where treasury and finance focus on reviewing
and optimising processes, such as centralising payments. With legal harmonisation through the PSD (Payment Services Directive) that underpins SEPA, it is easier for payment factories to operate on a ‘payments on behalf of’ model. Look out for the next article
in this series that addresses payment factories.
4. Centralise collections
Centralising collections has typically been more difficult than payments, not least due to the commercial sensitivities involved, and the variety of different payment methods by which customers choose to pay. With rationalised payment instruments in Europe,
this becomes easier to achieve, either through a physical collections factory, or virtually through the use of common platforms and processes. Centralising collections can have a dramatic impact on the quality of credit decision-making and monitoring, and
on overdue collections.
5. Standardise bank communication: regionally and globally
Multiple banks, multiple formats and multiple interfaces in a single region result in high costs and compromise controls. SEPA payment instruments use (largely) standard XML-based ISO 20022 formats which helps to streamline bank connectivity. When combined
with centralised processes and a rationalised banking structure, enhanced bank communication can be a major ‘win’ as part of a SEPA project. This extends not only to Europe, but globally, as ISO 20022 quickly becomes a global, not only a regional, standard.
Are you in the middle of a SEPA migration project or are you hestitating to start?